First Carnival Cruise since 2007: Review of the Carnival Paradise
If you’ve cruised before you’ve heard the jokes about Carnival. And even if you haven’t cruised, you’ve probably heard them. I personally hadn’t ever had any issues with any Carnival cruise I’d taken over the years. I know people aren’t taking the cruise to listen to an art lecture. We opted for a quick Labor Day Weekend cruise out of Tampa to Cozumel, Mexico on a Carnival ship, the Paradise to be my eighth Carnival cruise and first experience on Carnival since 2007.
This is our home port so we really wanted this to be a great experience. The day in Cozumel was nothing short of awesome and the people we met on board were lots of fun. The staff on board, for the most part, were very helpful, friendly and professional.
If you’ve read anything in this blog you won’t find much about negative experiences unless it is written from a hospitality industry perspective dealing with service recovery. The ship was very clean (except our room had hair bands in the top desk drawer which was kind of gross). The amenity basket is always something fun on Carnival and ours had some Breathe Right nasal strips which I tried and found them fantastic – first thing I bought when back in Tampa Bay!
One thing that is always an issue on a cruise ship is the smoking policy and this ship was nice in that there was only one indoor place to smoke that we knew of and that was the eight or so stools confined to the casino bar – and naturally this area was usually loaded with smoke since it was so confined but was easy to avoid. Outside decks Starboard side also sometimes allowed smoking. The ship was once fully non-smoking but that changed in 2003. This ship was probably as close to perfect for both smokers and non-smokers.
The dining room was very good. Not the newer style with grandeur but a low ceiling and more than adequate atmosphere. The service was more than acceptable and the one surprise was the formal (Cruise Elegant Attire) night dinner included lobster tail and shrimp and it really was the best I’ve ever had on a cruise. I was more than surprised. Our dinner mates were all lovely people and we were all well matched at our table of ten though we only went to two of the four dinners in the dining room and once we did lunch with acceptable hamburgers being served – at least mine was. Very minor issue: my request of only pickles and mustard on my burger consisted of a delivered product that included a pot of ketchup at my plate, onion, lettuce and tomato on the burger and a single pickle slice. I had to ask for mustard. My partner didn’t eat his burger but tasted mine as said it was fine.
Our first evening on board we were constantly woken by the noise in the hallway and the room next door. We couldn’t identify where it was coming from at the time. The room was next to the stairs as well. The fact that there is noise is certainly not the fault of Carnival and I give them a pass at that. Who can control a bachelor party that lasts five days in a cramped interior cabin with multiple young men in it. Several other complaints and the situation was handled the second night of the same rowdy behavior. With one exception. Someone from security knocked on our door after we had phoned and had no response with the noise next door so we knocked once on the wall – banged once might have been a better description. I was surprised that security would call us on it but he did and this is the bad part of it, as I snapped his picture in the hall – one never knows when one needs a photo for a story and I thought this one would center around Carnival’s efficient and professional response to repeated noise and our inability to sleep.
Back to the security officer who then asked why I was taking his picture. I told him I was writing a story on the cruise. He demanded I delete it and attempted to come into the room and repeated his demand that I delete it while I held the door closed with about a six inch gap. I told him I now had the sound recorder on and asked him to repeat his request. He let go of the door and left. I shut the door and locked it and placed luggage in front of the door. Suddenly I felt like I was the problem and not the very loud neighbors. And I felt like I was being punished for complaining about outrageous noise. I have left out a visit to guest services and a talk with another security guard (about the noise). We did receive two letters which were very professional and at all times security was called the noise stopped – of course this was after being woken up and by the third night the only real option was to drink to be able to sleep.
While I didn’t intend to go into all of this, the lesson is that if you are on a summer or weekend cruise in which college kids will be partying you can expect this on a ship that is very affordable and understand, if it is Carnival, they will do their best to help you. I still believe this and that the ill-trained security officer that I encountered was the exception to the rule of politeness and professional courtesy. And I’m not posting his picture but decided to leave it in the story because it was so central to the experience.
We believe the neighbors must have been moved because the fourth night of the cruise we fully expected the same and there was nothing at all coming from the room. Bravo to Carnival if this did happen. Or maybe they missed the ship in Mexico! We tried to sleep the entire day to make up for three nights of lost sleep so we didn’t venture out for the second sea day – and only ordered room service to eat which was more than acceptable. In all, with the exception of the rogue security guard, Carnival handled the issue to the best of their ability. We wanted to move rooms the first night and were told it wasn’t an option and understandably so on a sold out cruise. We would have taken the lowest and smallest room on the ship too and considered ourselves lucky.
The people on board that we met were really wonderful. Probably the best I’d met and got to know since a ten day Holland America cruise years ago. This will be my memory of this cruise and I will get rid of any negative memory as much as I can. I will think of that lobster tail dinner with great fondness.
This was my first time ever not visiting the gym or spa – too tired from lack of sleep for that. We did experience karaoke and that was a laugh. And the entertainment along Carnival Blvd. was excellent. Mae at the Casino Bar was one of the hardest working bar managers I’ve ever seen. And pleasant and remembered our names. All this while smiling and being called Miss Mae loudly and repeatedly by a very drunk older man one night. She was a class act and obviously well trained in hospitality. She also ran a very clean bar.
The very nice cabin steward was very professional and courteous though we missed at least three services because we were trying to sleep when the room next door was quiet. And we will book another Carnival cruise – I’m only two cruises away from Platinum status before year’s end so it probably is worth it and one of the reasons we booked the Carnival ship in the first place.
The good: Formal Night Dinner, Mae at the Casino Bar, Nice ship layout, courteous guest services staff and some of the nicest passengers we’ve ever met on cruises.
The bad: One security officer and rambunctious bachelor party neighbors.
As one partying cruise passenger in her 80s once told me “I can sleep when I’m dead.” I try to remember that. Go cruise, have fun and bring ear plugs just in case you decide to sleep. I’ll be booking again! Just not next week!